Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Kevin Neal, Convicted of Murder by Forensic Entomology

The Physical Evidence

After using Champaign County deputies who were the first responders to the scene after Kevin Neal called 911 to establish the mood and overview of the early stages of the investigation, Selvaggio quickly introduced the little physical evidence produced in the two-year probe. He called agents from BCI, who collected bedding and clothes from the Neal home. When they were collecting evidence, three items were of particular interest to investigators: a sheet with stains that were determined to be blood belonging to India, a pair of blue jeans worn that day by Kevin Neal, and a blue blanket taken from Cody's bed. Agents later learned that India was entering puberty and there were no signs of struggle in the area where the sheet was found, so they could draw no inferences from that finding.

The blue blanket and the jeans, however, contained evidence in the form of seeds that tied them to the cemetery. Because forensic botany is such a specific subspecialty, there was no one at the BCI lab who had knowledge enough to interpret the significance of the seeds. Instead, the agents contacted two specialists who would be able to shed some light on just what inferences could be drawn from the evidence.

Knight Road Home, rear view
Knight Road Home, rear view

While the children were still missing, criminalists at the Knight Road home found large, burr-like seeds attached to the blanket and much smaller seeds in the pockets of Kevin's jeans. Working from the premise that knowing the type of seeds they had found could point investigators toward the location of the children, an agent from BCI took the evidence to Seed Technology, Inc., a private laboratory that contracted with the Ohio Department of Agriculture on seed purity issues.

 

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